Happy 50th Birthday RDFFG!
Banner celebrates milestone – image courtesy Regional District of Fraser Fort George
Prince George, B.C.- On this day in 1967, the Regional District of Fraser Fort George was incorporated. A lot has happened during those five decades, and the Regional District is celebrating as it prepares for another half century.
The beginnings go back to 1965, when B.C. was experiencing rapid expansion because of resource development. Plenty of rural areas were growing, but lacked having a local government, so the Provincial Ministry of Municipal Affairs had to handle things like land use planning and regulation. There was also the issue of rural communities not having access to services such as water and fire protection.
There were two main issues which drove the creation of Regional Districts. One was the ability of a rural community to borrow money. Rural communities were at a distinct disadvantage when it came to securing long term loans for capital expenditures. Then there was the matter of hospital funding. Once again, a rural communities were at a disadvantage because they didn’t have the tax base to cover their area’s share of capital costs. Regional Hospitals at the time, were funded off the backs of the taxpayers in the city where the facility was located, and rural residents living just outside a city’s limits were spared any financial responsibility for the hospital’s operation.
To resolve the issues, the Province introduced legislation in 1965 to create regional districts, and in 1967, the Regional District of Fraser Fort George was incorporated. That same year, the Hospital Districts Act was enacted which has regional districts covering 40% of the capital costs for hospital development.
The first Board of Directors for the RDFFG was Chaired by Paul Klotz of Mackenzie a director from one of 8 electoral areas to make up the Regional District. The very first Board meeting was held on march 30th in the offices of the Northern Interior Health Unit. At the time, the operating budget for the Regional District was just under $109 thousand dollars, there were only two people on staff ( a secretary/manager G.S. ‘Stu’ Fleming) and one planner. The Regional District was working out of rented space in the Victoria Medical Building.
Today, the Regional District has 75 FTEs, a budget of $42.8 million and makes its home at the corner of George Street and First Avenue.
( at right, the Board of 1968 meets, Chairman George McAndrew stands to address the gathering – image courtesy RDFFG archive)
There have been some major events for the Regional District over the years says Art Kaehn, who is now the longest serving Chair of the Board, having been first elected to that position in December of 2006.
Here is a list of the Chairs of the Board since the RDFFG was incorporated:
- Paul Klotz 1967
- George MacAndrew 1968-1970
- Levi Johnson 1971-1973
- Leonard Proppe 1974-1977
- Harold Mann 1978-1979
- Art Stauble 1980-1981, 1983-1986
- George McKnight 1982
- Monica Becott 1987-1988
- Colin Kinsley 1989-1992, 2001-2006
- Bob Headrick 1993-2000
- Art Kaehn 2007 – present
Highlights over the years include the referendum to create the 9-1-1 service. The referendum passed, and Art Kaehn recalls the comments made by the late Tom Briggs, who was the Mayor of Mackenzie, when the referendum had passed “He said they sold the service based on the fact that taxation for it was going to be cheaper than a case of beer.”
There can be no talk about the colourful characters of the Board of the Regional District without discussing the late Bob Headrick. As Director for Area D ( Tabor Lake- Stone Creek), Headrick served 30 years on the Board. He was Chair for 8 years during the ’90’s which saw the Regional District face another one of its challenges in the Provincially ordered waste management plan for solid waste management, a project that had a price tag of nearly $50 million dollars. “Looking back, Director Harvey Clark and Director Headrick ran the quickest (Board) meetings” says Kaehn. “Director Headrick , sometime in the afternoon when we would start the meeting, would say ‘O.K. pilgrims, it’s time to get down to the rat killing’ and we would storm right through the agenda.”
Director Terry Burgess, who at the age of 80 is the oldest person to ever serve on the Board, also fondly recalls the late Bob Headrick “He was the one who pushed to give the Regional District say on farmland, we are the only ones with that authority. He was also Chair when the Hospital Districts came to be, and that was something he wasn’t too happy about.”
There have been many accomplishments over the years says Kaehn, “A new firehall in Beaverly, a number of sewer systems in Pineview and Summit Lake, moved the transfer stations, we’ve done a whole bunch of work with the landfill gas management system at Foothills landfill, of course the opening of the East Line Community Centre.”
He says former Chair (and Mayor of Prince George) Colin Kinsley was the one who made everyone at the RDFFG understand they all benefited by each’s other successes “He used to say what’s good for Prince George is good for the Region, and vice versa. I think the Board really bought into that, whatever we do is going to make it better for everybody.”
Kaehn says he’s no fortune teller, but knows there are still challenges that lie ahead, including the stability of rural communities, the changes that may come about should the Lheidli T’enneh approve their treaty, economic factors, and the impacts of climate change.
But for now, it’s time to celebrate the milestone, and the Regional District will be heading out on the road this year to hold board meetings in Mackenzie, McBride and Valemount in addition to having a presence at many community events that will be taking place throughout the region over the course of this year.